Religious freedom protesters: 'Yes, we have the audacity to stand in the name of God'
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Those who gathered in Ann Arbor for Friday's religious freedom rally aren't just mad at President Barack Obama for his administration's contraception mandate — they also don't like his recently stated position in support of gay marriage.
"We are here in the name of God to stand up for our rights, to stand up for dying babies, to stand up for the institution of marriage," said the Rev. Levon Yuille of Ypsilanti Bible Church, receiving cheers for his impassioned speech on the University of Michigan Diag.
"Yes, we have the audacity to stand in the name of God," he added.
Holding up signs and yellow balloons reading "Religious Liberty," hundreds of Christians gathered on the Diag for the second nationwide Stand Up For Religious Freedom rally. The protest coincided with rallies in at least 164 other U.S. cities, including 13 in Michigan.
"The men and women who came to this nation didn't come because the federal government gave them rights," Yuille said. "They didn't come under the authority of some individuals or some human beings. They came in the name of God."
Speakers at the event said they weren't willing to sacrifice their religious freedom at the altar of Obama and Planned Parenthood.
Event emcee Nick Thomm of WDEO radio decried the fact that religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities have until August 2013 to provide their employees with health insurance that covers contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.
"If the church refuses to comply with this mandate from the Health and Human Services Department, various penalties would ensue," he said. "The church would be considered an outlaw, a bad neighbor, and its leaders subject to persecution."
Thomm said New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, got it right when he remarked: "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."
Joe Lipa, president of the University of Michigan Students for Life, said his group will stand in opposition to any law that forces anyone to act against his or her conscience.
Rallying the crowd even more, Sarah Burdick of Servants of God's Love said her loyalty is to "the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords" before Obama.
"I serve a king who has never been overthrown, one who has never been up for re-election," she said. "I serve a king who will not be shackled by any government mandate. The government rests on his shoulders. He upholds all."
Brian Rooney, who ran unsuccessfully for the 7th District seat in the U.S. House in 2010, spoke of his time as Marine in Iraq in 2004.
"I knew that my sacred duty there was to help bring freedom to the people who had never known it before," he said.
Never in his wildest dreams, Rooney said, did he think he'd come home and have to fight for religious freedom in the United States.
"And now we have all the Christian community coming together here, all the religious community coming together, to say: Catholics, you need to wake up a little bit," he said. "You need to see the assault that's happening directly upon your church and your institutions."
Pastor Ed Fride of Christ the King Catholic Church made reference to the Disney movie "The Lion King," saying Christians for too long have been in a "Hakuna Matata" phase.
"We didn't say anything when they took God from our schools," he said. "We didn't say anything when they took God from our government. Now that they're trying to take God from our churches, we're finally trying to say something."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.